Background. Evidence indicates that sentinel node (SN) biopsy can accurately predict axillary nodal status. Debate exists as to the optimal method of SN identification. Methods. Patients with clinical T1 or T2 tumors and negative axillae were randomized to SN localization with blue dye (B) alone (n = 50) or blue dye plus radioactivity (B+R) (n = 42). Patients undergoing needle localization (n = 47) were assigned to blue dye. Results. The SN was identified in 110 patients (79%) and contained metastases in 28. The SN predicted the axillary nodal status in 96% of cases. The SN identification rate did not differ between B (88%) or B+R (86%) but was significantly lower in patients requiring localization (64%). The time to SN identification also did not differ between B and B+R. The number of cases done by an individual surgeon was a significant predictor of SN identification. A stepwise logistic regression analysis of factors influencing the success of SN identification identified tumor location, needle localization, number of operations, and body mass index as significant predictors. Conclusions. Our study does not identify any advantage for the use of the more expensive and complex method of SN identification using B+R compared with B alone, even for surgeons learning the techniques.
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